I'm a Canadian who used to live in NYC. Here are 9 things I don't miss about the US.




I spent a few years living in New York City. Anna Haines
I spent a few years living in New York City. Anna Haines  

I moved from Canada to Brooklyn, New York, until my visa expired in 2018, and I fell in love with many aspects of American living - but not everything.

American grocery stores are too cold

The wall of frigid air that hit every time I entered a store was so shocking, I often wondered if I would develop a cold. I know New York gets sticky hot in the warmer months, but the icy indoor temperatures felt a bit extreme.

I'll still occasionally bring a sweater to the grocery store here in the summer, but our shops are slightly warmer than those in the US.

Canadians tend to be quite serious about littering and recycling. Anna Haines
Canadians tend to be quite serious about littering and recycling. Anna Haines  

Although certain states and cities have made strides in their efforts to curb climate change, I often felt like Americans treated the environment as an afterthought.

After years of receiving double-bagged groceries in NYC, it was an adjustment to return home to the guilt-inducing experience of having to buy a plastic bag if I forgot my reusable one.

Compared to Americans, Canadians take recycling very seriously and you would be hard-pressed to ever catch one in the act of littering. Even Toronto, our most populated city, is surprisingly spotless.

Plus cleaner streets mean no insects in the sheets

Cockroaches and mice might be a rite of passage for New Yorkers, but I never got used to them.

After discovering a cockroach in my bed one hot summer night and my cat with a dead mouse hanging out of her mouth not once, but twice, I developed a persistent, low-grade anxiety over finding those unwanted roommates.

I no longer worry about getting sick with the Canadian healthcare system

Even though I bought insurance in the US, I still lived with the constant fear of getting in an accident or falling severely ill and racking up an extremely high hospital bill.

Although Canadian healthcare isn't exactly free - we pay through our taxes - and is far from perfect - those seeking specialized care or mental-health services can wait years before seeing someone - it's still a remarkable system.

Since moving home, I feel especially grateful that I can see a doctor or get blood work done by simply showing my health card.

I can easily find real tea

Tea at Betty
Tea at Betty's Tea Room in Harrogate, England.  

The US has certainly come a long way when it comes to its selection, but whenever I would order tea at a restaurant, people assumed I meant iced tea.

The heavy British influence in Canada means we take tea very seriously. Ever since moving home, I've savored having so many options when I'm craving a warm cup during the chilly months.

We're more gentle in our politics

Despite growing up in a family that considered talking politics impolite, I quickly took to Americans' brashness while living in the US. I love that they speak their mind and don't shy away from big issues.

But being in NYC after the 2016 election was emotionally exhausting - news bombarded every screen and people argued on the street and broke into tears on the subway.

Our most recent election campaign in Canada was so cordial that it was easy to forget it was happening. I think Canadians' sensitivity to politics can be harmful in that it silences important conversations, but I still prefer it over extreme divisiveness.

Asking for the 'washroom' isn't met with a look of confusion

I was often looked at like an alien when I asked US servers for the "washroom."

Although I quickly learned that Americans call it the "bathroom" - or even worse, the "toilet" - I never adopted the term. Why is it called the bathroom if there is no bathtub?

Canadians might be overly polite, but when it comes to bodily excrement, I'd prefer to air on the side of the well-mannered "washroom."

Cannabis is far more accessible in Canada

Recreational marijuana is legal in Canada. Adam Melnyk
Recreational marijuana is legal in Canada. Adam Melnyk  

I also have been amazed by the ease with which I can access marijuana here. I'm not a big smoker, but when I'd occasionally crave some weed in New York City to relieve stress or help me sleep, it was impossible to find.

Although there's a lingering stigma around smoke culture, Canada's legalization of recreational weed in 2018 has helped normalize cannabis use, especially as people become increasingly aware of the health benefits.

With speedy delivery services and cannabis shops on seemingly every block, I never struggle to find a weed gummy.

Our borders are more welcoming

When I lived in the US, I wasn't called a visitor or immigrant, I was legally referred to as a "resident alien" - which seems to sum up the American approach to immigration.

With one of the highest immigration rates in the world, Canada has a more open-door policy for refugees and immigrants, and we don't view them as victims or outsiders.

Making up over 20% of the population, immigrants aren't seen as "resident aliens," but rather as essential contributors to both the economy and the multicultural fabric of our identity.

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